One of the noticeable things to say about the Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo rivalry, is that it hardly ever appears above the surface. The two best players in the world, playing for two teams (Barcelona and Real Madrid) who are part of the greatest football rivalry, but we hardly ever see it materialize.
Because this isn’t an individual sport, and as two attacking players, we barely see the two in one on one confrontations or even in the same area of the pitch for almost the entire match. These aren’t two central midfielders battling for possession all 90 minutes. Two sort of strikers who earn their living on opposite sides of the field.
But as the rivalry between the two teams seems to intensify with every passing year, partially because of the presence of Jose Mourinho, who by purpose or by mistake makes everything seem to mean a bit more than it really should, maybe the individual rivalry between Messi and Ronaldo is beginning to take a bit noticeable side.
Now, was that moment just an accident? They did actually not recognize each other as they were walking towards the referees, shaking hands with them but not with each other? Did they have that moment already on the pitch before what the cameras caught? Or were they purposely avoiding each other? Is there actual hate there?
It wouldn’t be surprising. The two are often compared to each other, about every other day and three times a day when there’s a Clasico coming up. Cristiano Ronaldo was everything but pleased and very far from hiding it during the UEFA ceremony, giving Andres Iniesta the award for European player of the season. He keeps talking about the awards he thinks he should win (although he cares about other things, don’t forget) and even mentions Messi from time to time, just like in the Euro tournament, frustrated with the chants of Messi outside his hotel and in the stands.
Some sources, although doubtfully reliable, argue that Messi doesn’t harbor too much love from Real’s number seven. His behavior, his attitude; you know, the same thing that makes million around the world feel some sort of disdain for Cristiano Ronaldo.
One thing you can argue in favor of Ronaldo is that you know what he’s thinking and how he’s feeling all the time. Maybe he tries to act differently from an arrogant brat, but with each moment that passes during a match or watching him take an interview, it’s pretty clear the man’s obsessed with himself and his image. Wayne Rooney’s book will only further clarify that point.
Messi? A conundrum. Hardly ever speaks to the media about anything controversial. Boring. All business, with a private life that remains rather private most of the time, or at least doesn’t generate the kind of news Cristiano Ronaldo does. Maybe he’s simply a less interesting person.
There’s this moment from April 2011, after Real Madrid won the Copa del Rey. Is Sergio Ramos making fun of the Lionel Messi celebration? Probably. But great rivalries should be about that. About hard fouls, about emotions boiling over on the pitch. About hate, yes. It’s a big part of sport tradition, of great rivalries between great teams and players.
Maybe Ronaldo and Messi are getting close to that point where their feeling towards one another start spilling out on the football pitch, and make things a bit more interesting, in a bit of a reality TV show kind of way, for us.